Trump goes on offense at Michigan rallies
Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump went on the offensive Friday in Michigan, taking on critics and contenders while brushing off what he called a “nasty” debate the previous night in Detroit.
“Some of these people have like a 10 percent loyalty, meaning if they sneeze in the wrong direction they’re done,” Trump told a crowd of 3,500 in Cadillac, referencing his three remaining challengers for the GOP nomination.
“With me, I think I could do almost anything and you’re with me, right?”
Trump was his bombastic self on a day when flip-flopped on his commitment to use waterboarding “or worse” on terrorists. In a statement, he said he understands that the United States is “bound by laws and treaties” and will not order U.S. military officials to violate or disobey those laws if elected president.
But the real estate developer was immovable during Thurday’s debate when Fox News moderator Bret Baier asked what he would do as president the U.S. military refused to carry out illegal orders such as targeting terrorists’ families.
“They’re not going to refuse me. Believe me,” he said during the debate
Trump spoke Friday morning to an estimated crowd of 4,000 at the Macomb Community College Sports & Expo Center in Warren before filling the Wexford County Civic Center in Northern Michigan, where guards turned away hundreds when the building reached capacity.
“I used to say it’s the silent majority, but it’s really not the silent majority anymore,” Trump said to an adoring crowd. “This is a very, very noisy majority.”
The New York businessman’s speeches came as Ohio Gov. John Kasich gained the endorsement of Lt. Gov. Brian Calley before a Friday night event in Holland.
Calley said Friday he favors Kasich because of the Ohio governor’s focus on improving programs for the disabled, mentally ill and individuals with substance abuse problems.
“It really comes down to just being able to see his heart and how much he cares about people and the amount of attention and focus he spent making sure that we don’t forget about people,” Calley told The Detroit News.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida campaigned in Kansas ahead of Saturday’s caucuses. Republican U.S. Reps. Bill Huizenga of Zeeland and John Moolenaar of Midland, who are co-chairing Rubio’s Michigan, continued the campaign’s criticism of Trump’s failed business ventures.
“Trump’s history of scamming honest Americans and complete lack of principles or policy knowledge would make him a disaster at the top of our ticket,” Huizenga and Moolenaar said in a statement.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas attacked Trump for softening his stance on H-1B visas for highly skilled workers. Before a rally Friday at the University of Maine, Cruz told reporters the businessman would allow immigrants to “take away our jobs.”
In both Michigan speeches, Trump hammered “stupid” trade policies that he said have led companies to ship jobs overseas, a message that could appeal to blue-collar workers in Michigan. The country’s best business people should be negotiating those deals, said the real-estate mogul, not “political hacks.”
In Cadillac, Trump argued he was growing the Republican brand rather than destroying it, saying he was drawing Democrats and independents to his campaign. In Warren, he urged the Macomb County crowd to vote for him next week.
"If you get laid off on Tuesday, I still want you voting," he said. "I'll give you a new job."
The billionaire businessman mixed verbal jabs at opponents Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, continuing to call them "Little Marco" and "Lying Ted."
"You know that in Florida, they hate little Marco so much because of the fact he never shows up to vote," Trump said.
The raucous crowds cheered every time Trump instructed security personnel to escort protesters out of the gymnasium.
Trump used both campaign events to respond to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's speech Thursday criticizing his candidacy. Romney, a Michigan native who lost the 2012 presidential campaign, said in a speech Thursday that Trump does not have the "temperament of a stable, thoughtful leader."
"The hatred he has, the jealousy," Trump said of Romney.
Before his Warren speech, Republican state Sens. Joe Hune of Hamburg Township and Jack Brandenburg of Harrison Township fired up the crowd with jabs at Romney.
"Our Michigan-born son Mitt Romney ... He had some terrible things to say about our Donald Trump," Hune said. "To Mitt Romney, I say, you lost! Mitt Romney, you couldn’t turn out crowds like this."
Later in the speech, Trump questioned Romney's intelligence.
"I'm telling you, he's a stupid person," Trump said.
Trump spoke for more than hour in Warren, where he was interrupted by five protesters, whom he ordered removed. "Alright, get him out. Try not to hurt him," Trump instructed security personnel.
A local fire marshal limited the crowd size at 4,000, a college official said, but Trump claimed more than 2,000 people had to be turned away. The Trump campaign routinely gives out more free online tickets for his campaign rallies than the capacity of the venue.
The real estate mogul continued his months-long criticism of Ford Motor Co. for expanding manufacturing operations in Mexico. He renewed his vow to pressure the Dearborn automaker to move operations back into the U.S. with the threat of a 35 percent tax on all vehicles and parts imported from Mexico.
"We're going to bring the (auto) industry back to Michigan," Trump said.
Trump, who has never held an elected office, has tapped into angst and anger among the Republican electorate on his way route to his front-runner status.
“He’s not just another politician, and I like that” said Denise Egan, a Saginaw-area nurse who attended the Cadillac rally. “I’m sick of all the bull with politicians. He knows how negotiate and get things working.”
Trump found himself under constant fire Thursday night during a two-hour televised debate at the Fox Theatre. U.S. Sens. Rubio and Cruz formed a loose on-stage coalition to go after Trump’s business record and policy positions that don’t match the GOP platform. Both men, as well as Ohio Gov. John Kasich, are vying to be the GOP's alternative to Trump for the nomination.
"I thought he got beat up pretty bad," said Marilyn Monzo, a 60-year-old Trump supporter from Fraser. "A lot of the questions were kind of ridiculous."
Trump's unwillingness to follow a rigid conservative ideology is attractive to some voters who don't normally cast ballots for Republicans.
Phillip Sherwood, 53, of Troy, attended Trump's Warren rally and acknowledged he was a Democratic voter until Trump launched his White House campaign last summer.
"He'll shake things up," Sherwood said. "Every other candidate is committed to the status quo. I would not vote for a Republican. I'm specifically voting for Trump."
Cruz and Rubio are not campaigning Friday or Saturday in Michigan. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the fourth Republican still in the race, is holding an evening campaign event in Holland. Kasich plans to stump for votes Saturday in Traverse City, Marquette and Birch Run.
U.S. Reps. Bill Huizenga of Zeeland and John Moolenaar of Midland, who are co-chairing Rubio's Michigan, issued a joint statement Friday morning that continued the Rubio campaign's criticism of Trump's failed business ventures.
"Trump’s history of scamming honest Americans and complete lack of principles or policy knowledge would make him a disaster at the top of our ticket," Huizenga and Moolenaar said in the statement. "Michigan should reject Donald Trump's political opportunism and support Marco Rubio, the only true conservative candidate, who can unite the party, and beat Hillary Clinton."
Trump does not currently have any other Michigan events scheduled before the Tuesday primary. He announced Friday that he will skip this weekend’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference near Washington, D.C., to campaign in Florida and Kansas.